When work feels like sixth grade, there’s really something wrong. I didn’t even go to sixth grade! Is this the penance I have to pay for that small feat of elusion?
A house divided against itself cannot stand. So who’s going to fall over first?
When work feels like sixth grade, there’s really something wrong. I didn’t even go to sixth grade! Is this the penance I have to pay for that small feat of elusion?
A house divided against itself cannot stand. So who’s going to fall over first?
Oh John Schneider, where are you now?
When I was in high school, I was something of a firebrand. I won the Bible-beater “award” (really a gag gift of a stolen hotel Gideon) four out of four possible years at the annual New Mexico Model UN conference in Santa Fe. I stood in front of a car full of friends, as though I were in Tienanmen Square facing a tank, refusing to let them pass after one of them had offended me at just the wrong time. I spat on an ex-girlfriend’s car almost daily for a year, usually aiming for the driver’s side door handle. I was often righteously angry, raging or ranting at this or that situation. And, as now, I was quite an absolutist and extremist.
The softer side of this ball of fury included a propensity to push limits. I experimented with not sleeping, growing my hair out, changing my eating habits. I concluded one day that “Americans are obsessed with sitting” and refused to seat myself for a full day of school, standing in the back of the room during classes. I even stood for an entire session of our incredibly stuffy lunch (assigned seating, 10 students per table with one faculty head to generate appropriate mealtime discussion), eating with about 30% efficiency as I precariously carried my food on a fork from my waist to my mouth while standing. By the next day, I had decided that the whole sitting thing made a bit of sense.
Some of these experiments stuck. I still sleep less than most, though I am sleeping vastly more than the alternating sessions of zero and four hours of sleep per night that graced much of high school. Vegetarianism was clearly a good move. I am fond of growing my hair out.
But something that didn’t quite stick was periodic fasting. Fish and I engaged in a Ramadan-style fast during daylight hours of a summer month (July 1997, if memory serves), ostensibly “for” the success of our upcoming play that we co-directed that fall. I joined a Yom Kippur-style fast at Brandeis “for” the people of Bosnia a couple years later. After each fast, I came away refreshed and renewed and, while glad I could eat for the moment, convinced that fasting is really quite useful and beneficial in a variety of ways, from physical to spiritual.
The title of this post was a sincere comment I made to John Schneider, a good friend in high school, when describing the fast with Fish. He laughed uproariously and would proceed to bring it up for years afterward when he wanted to cite something absurd that I had said as the basis for giving me flak about my craziness. Schneider, a bit of a hedonist, saw self-denial as innately laughable and inherently unenjoyable. For him, my line was a bit as if I had said that self-flagellation were fun, or perhaps bathing in live scorpions.
Of course he was the one who ran cross-country.
Well, fasting is back. Having mentally prepared for this and pondered the parameters for a few months, I have chosen this weekend for a journey of sensory withdrawal (deprivation sounds so negative) and contemplation.
I still need to pick out a precise location, but it will be somewhere around a mile up or down a trail from a specified “drop point” in a county or state park not far away. I will bring only water, a tent, a sleeping bag, and paper and pen. No other sustenance of any kind, no electronics, and no books. No stimulus. The paper and pen will not be used to work on some creative or escapist project, but simply to record my thoughts, observations, and feelings as I embark on this 40-hour quest.
And while I take this project very seriously and intend to learn a lot from it, I must admit that I see this as a bit of a trial run, as practice. My hope would be that this be at least some sort of annual event, and that the distances and maybe even the timeframes could be stretched in future efforts. For now, though, I want to stay relatively close to home. And there’s something about the 40-hour span that just sings to me.
There are a lot of reasons that now seems like the time for this journey. My need to examine and make changes is all over this young blog, all over my thoughts and perspectives for the last few months. I feel far too “plugged in” in general, reliant on computers and electronic media, reliant on a constant level of noise and activity that all too often comes out like static. And I’m too caught up with what’s going on. Conflicts at work bleed into the rest of my day, spoiling my mood and my inspiration. I feel a deafening thud of routine overwhelming my creativity and vibrancy. Oh, how I want to break free.
Back in high school, I went on a “wilderness solo” camping trip as part of our experiential education curriculum during my sophomore year. The idea was extremely captivating to me, despite my lack of positive camping experiences and my horrendous feelings about the prior experiential ed trip, freshman year’s Philmont of doom (and torrential rain). The solo was pretty light-core and there was no fasting component, but we were supposed to hike out to our own predetermined spots and be alone for roughly 24 hours. While not required, we were encouraged to not bring books or other stimuli, in an effort to break below alpha and beta waves into our “theta wave state”. (There was actually a very long exposition about these relative brain wave states, which I have learned almost nothing about before or since, from the teachers running our trip.)
Most people snuck in alcohol and just drank. I really tried to honor the parameters of the trip, even though I had initially seen this as a great opportunity to just get away and read for a long time. In my early musings, I started humming the Kinks’ song “Lola” in my head, and it wound up stuck there for no less than 12 hours. It was torture. Eventually I had to break out a book in an effort at distraction, to no avail. I tried to sleep as much as I could.
And the teachers couldn’t even maintain the 24 hours of solo. They came to check on each one of us at about the 12-hour mark, just to make sure we were okay. I think the school’s liability standards were a bit in conflict with the project concept.
I think I’ve made a lot of progress in the last 12 years, especially regarding my perspective about the value of limiting stimuli. I may end up with “Lola” or some equally annoying drivel in my head for the bulk of the trip. I may end up thinking the whole time about what I’m missing, though I believe that would be quite informative in some way. I might just get a migraine and be in a low state of capacitation for most of the time.
But I doubt most of those scenarios. I have a feeling that I will be able to flush out much of what has been bothering me over the last few months, to really reset and focus on what’s important. To, as my Dad put it, “put my ear to the ground and truly listen”.
Obviously, while some of the inspiration comes from that wilderness solo attempt so long ago, some of the inspiration here is from Native American spirit quests, where young adults were dispatched to find their path upon reaching the age of majority. It’s clearly a different time in my life, one where I’ve passed or reached many of the plateaus and perspectives that young Native Americans were seeking. But there is still much to seek, and much to find. And the Native Americans had the advantage of being able to return to a world filled with people and bustle, yes, but devoid of clocks and electronics and infinite distraction. In our current incarnation, we have a much wider bridge to cross to be at home in the world.
Right now, with two days of work, routine, bustle, clocks, and electronics to go, I can’t wait to stand on that bridge, throw my arms to the sky, and just look around.
Emily and I spent the weekend in Vermont, with roughly 20 hours in the air (and airports) and 36 hours on the ground. We went to witness and celebrate the marriage of Stina (Robison) Gagner and Dav Gagner. Congratulations!
A wedding is precisely the kind of event that made cryptic, three-line blogging such a joy. Sometimes I would punctuate some occasion like this with a line of congratulations (see above), but often I would write some airy words of wisdom or brief observation that seemed poignant and lyrical. And that would be that.
Trying to do more – to break down the event and do some sort of play-by-play – seems oddly inappropriate for an event like a wedding. I don’t really know why. Maybe it’s because details can really make something mundane, or at least appear more mundane than it felt at the time. Since you weren’t there (unless you were), you may read a narrative about a wedding simply mining it for details. Dress? Cake? Location? And in that, you don’t see the glint of the reflection off the water or the gust of breeze carrying laughter across the grass. Of course, I could just write a bunch of lines like “the glint of the reflection off the water or the gust of breeze carrying laughter across the grass”… but then I’d really just be doing three-liners instead of telling a story.
But maybe that’s okay. I may never escape metablogging. Maybe I’m just not in the right mindset to navigate a story lyrically tonight.
Obviously, the foremost thing one feels at a wedding is happiness for one’s friend(s) who are getting married. I think this is almost universal, except when one doesn’t approve of the match or if one is one of those increasing number who don’t seem to approve of marriage at all. Though those souls tend to be the same type who dislike (or claim to dislike) judgment as a concept, so even if they consider marriage to be a laughable promise mired in mysogyny and hopelessness, they will still wish their friends the best. A bad match is trickier. Fortunately, I both believe in marriage and heartily approve of this match, so all is/was well. It was great to bear witness to such happiness and joy, and the expression of that with others.
The others were a fair source of the joy as well, especially for my own lens of viewing the wedding. I think I may have seen more Brandeisians who I like than I could expect at a class reunion (though still fewer, to be sure, than at a debate reunion). And not just ‘Deisians, but many who I had long neglected to contact… and we all came together like it was somehow the turn of the millennium again. But now the questions we’re expected to answer are “What do you do?” and “Oh, what does that mean?”
I think one of the most exciting parts of getting older is the idea that we will get to see what other people we know or have known do with their lives. Moments like this weekend give me a glimpse into the idea that a great deal is to be learned by how unpredictable the life that unfolded for so many really is. And yet, so many people feel so little control over what’s going on. I’m caught between feeling it’s self-imposed and that it’s an extension of the powerlessness of our generation. I think tunnel-vision trumps powerlessness most of the time, though. And debt. Mounds of debt.
These thoughts must seem very distant from the wedding itself and especially the people doing the marrying. The thing about weddings is that one gets very little time with the prime-time couple… it’s rather like going to a stage play. One spends all their time watching the characters on stage, but the real contact is with the other guests at the show. Whoever you go with, or see when you get there that you know… those are the people who really impact your experience of whatever came up on stage.
Of course, I’m generalizing profusely, and this last paragraph above didn’t really even hold true for this wedding. It was relatively small, and I was blessed to be part of a small cache of people who hung out with the happy duo long after everyone else had retired. A couple couples peeled off toward the end, but four couples remained and whiled away hours in the tavern, then in the lobby, right up till Stina fell asleep. Fortunately the laughing-fit preceded the sleep. Something about shared experience spanning the distance of nearly a decade to dominate twin thoughts on a momentous evening indeed.
The rest of Vermont was peripheral, of course. It was mid-fall, so the reputed verdancy of Vermont was replaced by a blaze of colors made all the more striking under the obliquing fog. And of course the alleged mountains are scant hills in a region of the world that literally attempts the old cliche with the moles and such. Ben & Jerry, long since sold out, sold us ice cream after a tour of their legacy. In America, you do what you need to in order to retire comfortably and start doing whatever it is you actually wanted to be doing. Even if it was something as fun as making ice cream, or mountains from molehills for that matter.
There must be a place, if only imagined, where there is less concern with comfort and more with doing.
But comfort comes with joy, and there is no joy like love. Back in Berkeley, days later, it has begun to rain against my window. The rain comes in at an angle hitting the eastern window, despite the source being ever from the western ocean. There was very little crying at this wedding. Laughter. Cheering. The unbridled wonder of fulfillment amidst a lake and walls made from equal parts of glass.
The cars drive through small roadside pools on University, kicking up the jetting sound of splashed water, carrying students and teachers to their rest.
All right. Turns out that this whole “keeping posts long and narrative” idea works pretty well, but seems wholly unfitting for times like the morning before I depart on a big trip. I have a long-standing personal tradition of firing off correspondence and/or public missives before departing on trips, of getting up a little earlier to do so. Deep down, I know that a large part of the reason for this is the heightened perception of the risk of death during travel. Even though it’s absolutely not true, human beings feel this elevated threat level on planes that in someone like me (even though I know cars are eleventy-billion times more dangerous and life-threatening) makes me want to tie up loose ends… or at least give people awareness of what I was considering on the final day. Truth be told, it’s really amazing how much of my life I spend anticipating and preparing for final perceptions like that.
What a wonderfully cheery thought for five in the morning. But hey, if anything, I’m opening up even more with StoreyTelling than Introspection, because long explanations sort of require back-story, and back-story often requires taking a can-opener to those rusty containers that long ago developed botulism.
Regardless, the point here is that I have all these leftover thoughts and ideas that, now that I’m back in the blogging spirit, would normally have found their home in delicious two-liners on Introspection’s format. But there’s no place to put them. So they’re about to go here… periodically I’m probably just going to have to do posts like this with relatively unrelated assortments. I don’t think any of today’s are cryptic… I already have a whole “Keepin’ it Cryptic” category/tag planned too, since there will be inevitably be times when some other person feels they have a right to privacy, or I don’t really feel like forcing the issue with some person I know right here on this blog. But not today. So this will be like the appendix post.
Speaking of which, they allegedly found the purpose of the appendix this week. Nifty, huh? There’s a reason for everything. The proof for God is in the logical purpose, people.
Baseball is clearly something I’ve still been paying attention to, since it’s October and that’s one of the things that makes October great. And I am blessed to be paying Comcast an inordinate amount of money to get channels like TBS, so I’m not missing out on the playoffs. Hosting the baseball playoffs on TBS makes about as much sense as putting Top Chef on the History Channel. Especially since it’s the second playoffs in 465 years to not feature the Atlanta Braves. You could sort of draw a link between the channel and the show (in the same way that APDA draws links to resolutions), but no one who normally watches the channel will want to watch that show, and everyone who wants to watch will be vaguely frustrated to have to find a channel they never watch. Maybe that’s the strategy though, TBS gets to spam adds for their bizarre shows at a whole new audience. In 20 years, the Anime Channel will bid for the baseball playoffs and we’ll be inundated with ads for the latest blend of medieval fantasy themed Japanese characters with crazy hair and soap opera interactions between innings. And I’ll have to debate with Em about the value of adding the premium Anime Channel for 2 months and whether Comcast will respect our right to cancel it even though they’re already taking $746 a month.
I tend to be exaggerative in the morning.
My only real point in bringing up baseball was to observe how completely unlikely it is that anyone could’ve envisioned a Rockies/Diamondbacks NLCS even a month ago, let alone earlier in the season. And yet it looks extremely likely that this will happen. Granted, the Phillies are in the exact same position as the ’95 Mariners in their Division Series … down 2-0 going on the road. And we all know what happened then. (Or maybe you don’t. The M’s won 2 games in NY, then came home and won the decisive fifth game in extra innings in the greatest game in Mariner history.) And given that the Phils basically are the Mariners from a few years ago (not really, but the pitching staff is… after all, Pat Gillick’s their GM), it’s all possible. But at this point, the Rockies will probably be winning the World Series, so I wouldn’t put much faith in a Philly comeback.
I’m also starting to believe that a 5-game series just might not cut it for baseball. Or if it did, you’d need to have a 1-1-1-1-1 schedule, instead of 2-2-1. But it’s way easier to just go 7 games instead of changing venues for every game. The first World Series was 9 games. You don’t play 162 contests to get ousted by a 3-game losing streak. It’s just too short.
(By the way, the paragraphs directly above will earn this post the category/tag “Let’s Go M’s”. This is not because the M’s were briefly mentioned, but that will be my baseball title in general. I’m trying to limit myself a little here.)
Ack! In finding the link to that series recap on Wikipedia above, I just realized that I’ve been incorrect in my memory about the ’95 ALDS for years! Apparently they used to do a 2-3 schedule for the ALDS!! Two-three?! So the M’s were down 2-0 going into 3 straight home games, which they won all of. I’ve been recapping that series incorrectly for ages. Wow. That really blows my mind. Whoever thought 2-3 was a reasonable schedule for a baseball series? See, this really proves that it needs to be longer than 5 games.
Hm. Now I’ve gotten myself so hyped up about baseball that I’ve forgotten most of what else I was going to say. So it goes. I should go pack and clean out the catboxes anyway.
I’m going to Vermont, by the way, for Stina & Dav’s wedding, which will be in Octobery fall colors confines near the borders with New York and Quebec. It should be beautiful, and a little chilly. Em and I are changing planes approximately 4,000 times on the way out, so we’re loading up the books. The next book I finish will put me over the top of last year’s total (21), which is right about the pace I’d like to maintain for a year. My commute has been very good for keeping me reading… and I don’t want to read much more than 25 books a year, because then I’ll never write. I can’t quite decide if I like David Foster Wallace or if he’s just messing with everyone (or, I suppose, both), but his imagery is some of the strongest stick-to-your-mind kind of stuff ever.
(Gah, now I have to add a book/reading category/tag too! This is getting to be too much. I’m now believing that the way I really should have approached this morning’s posting is to post 4-5 separate posts, all neatly categorized and separated. But that would sort of be like a strobe-light-blog, wouldn’t it? Hrm.)
Thank you, by the way, to everyone who has written me e-mails in the last few days about this blog and welcoming me back into the communication fold. I really appreciate it and I will respond to everyone individually soon, but sadly not before leaving. But I want to acknowledge how touched I’ve been by your reception… it’s good to know I haven’t alienated all my readers by taking a couple months off.
Also, to delve into the slightest metablogging, I can’t figure out why the second post I made here was labeled as the third, and thereafter all the numbers have seemed to be off by one. This is the kind of thing that really bugs me about using automated blogging software and what I was always afraid of. Having an accurate postcount is one of the things that I was excited about with automation, and the slightest inaccuracy (and what could be more slight than an inaccuracy of one?) drives me crazy. When I return (there’s no time now), I will have to delve into the actual files of this database and see if I can alter everything to restore order to the numbers. So be mindful of permalinking these few early posts. If I restore the numbers and they count properly, I’ll never change them again. As I look at it now, though, it’s possible that WordPress is just terrified of a sophomore slump – category #2 doesn’t seem to exist either. Don’t fear the deuce, WordPress!
Okay, now to clean Pandora’s box.
I am not, by nature, someone who is particularly prone to planning ahead. Unlike some people who one might classify as “flaky”, this is a deliberate choice and not something I internally struggle with. I like not planning. I have my reasons, and to me they’re all true. But rather than delve into an expository on those reasons, I think this vignette of my life last night will serve to illustrate. Showing, not telling, they tell me.
Months ago, the Weakerthans let me know via their e-mail list that they would be coming to visit the city where I work, San Francisco, on October 3rd. The Weakerthans are a relatively obscure Canadian band who have chosen to stay on independent labels despite being talented enough to go for the big-time. They’re one of the bands I only know because I’m friends with David Gray (don’t misunderstand the musical mixed metaphor here – I’m talking about my friend, David Gray, not a Scottish folk singer… perhaps it’s best if I just call him Gris from now on). But unlike most of the music I’ve heard only through Gris, the Weakerthans are really good.
So they say they’ll be coming in October and I start to ready the usual suspects of people in the area who would want to go (Em, Gris, Anna) and get people excited about the show. Then I let it go for awhile, right up until this week when it flashed into my head that something exciting was coming up in October. By this time, rechecking with all the usual suspects reveals that no one else wants to go (everyone’s quite busy) and, lo and behold, the Weakerthans snuck a new CD out a week ago that will clearly be the basis for the show’s set and I don’t know it! Double-decker disaster!
(I initially thought that my e-mail list which is supposed to automatically keep me abreast of all things Weakerthans failed to inform me of the new CD, but upon review it seems that I was easily misled by the title of said disc. It’s called “Reunion Tour”. And I think they announced it in the same e-mail wherein they invited me to see them on their… tour. Chalk one up for not skimming the e-mail updates … or perhaps for bands never ever titling non-live album releases with the word Tour. Incidentally, the band has never broken up.)
Swift action was called for. I came to work yesterday with a plan to acquire the new CD at a music store near my place of employ and (gulp) listen to it at work sufficiently to catch up with it for the new show. I gulp not because there’s any sort of restriction on me listening to music at work – it’s all but encouraged – but because I pretty much can’t concentrate when there’s music on. Any noise that I can make sense of makes it almost impossible for me to zero in on anything else. Ambient, non-linguistic noise does not have the same problem, even at high volumes. I have always been amazed by people who legitimately seem to focus better while listening to music.
So the plan rolled out and I was able to find absurdly rote work to do for the first 40-minute run-though of the CD. Not enough to learn it, but at least I could know which songs to get excited about. And then I decided to hang out in my office for 40 minutes after work to more closely repeat the experience. It wasn’t until I was rechecking the show time on the website of the club (Slim’s) during track 7 that I actually saw the words… “PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS SHOW IS COMPLETELY SOLD OUT – THANK YOU!”
I knew the Weakerthans had stayed independent, so there was only one possible interpretation of that sentence. I wasn’t going to get to go.
Just as my heart was recovering from the shocking jolt of this realization (I had really been spending the whole day preparing for and thinking about this show), a plan began to hatch in my mind. So, only slightly fazed, I put together a sign to print out with a collection of Weakerthans song titles reworked to implore concert-goers to give me an extra ticket they might have (e.g. “This is a Ticket Seeker Never Leave Open”). I wrapped it up with a quote from “Pamphleteer” about standing on a corner, trying to get people’s attention, [and a ticket]. And I made it clear that I would pay face value for the ticket and was not seeking a freebie – although I would gladly have paid well more than the $15 face value of the ticket, I was quite concerned about being rung up for some sort of scalping infraction were I to put in writing that I would pay double face value. In fact I was quite concerned with this whole project that I could get hauled in (or at least shooed away) under scalping accusations of some sort or another. There’s a reason actual scalpers don’t entreaty customers with signs.
My larger concern, of course, was with investing hours of time in the cold with my sign and ending up going home without seeing the show. If it sold out in the first place, who knows how many die-hard fans they had accumulated since the last time they played SF? Would there be a fleet of people with signs like mine, boldly bidding $100 for entry? At least if I got shooed away early, I would only be out a brisk mile-plus walk across the city.
So I got there at about 6:20 (doors 7:30, show 8:00), to stand against a pole by the entrance perfectly positioned to face the line. The line had three inhabitants, stalwartly bracing against the wind tunnel formed by Slim’s on the right and… the tour bus on the left! Interesting. The box office was closed, so I couldn’t cajole them. I asked the three line-standers if they had an extras, then hauled my sign, backed with cardboard from my backpack. The wind was blowing such that it pinned the sign against my chest, which was rather fortunate… had the wind or arrangement of the street been reversed, all my hair would have obscured my face and the sign would constantly be in danger of catching the wind on a corner and blowing down the road.
Band members began to filter back and forth between the bus and the club, sometimes glancing at my sign and a couple took time to stop and read it. (The fonts were to small and people have a harder time seeing than I do, so people would often have to stop right next to me and sort of lean in to get the full impact of the sign. But people kept doing it.) Very few actual concert-goers were showing up. And then John K. Samson, the lead singer, turned the corner with an apparent local friend of his and was chatting with him for awhile. Then he popped into the club, then back over to the bus, and then came by to read my sign and say hello.
Dialogue in these situations is always a little strange. I don’t think stars (major or minor) like the fan who just opens up and starts talking about how they think the star is brilliant and speaks to them or some such. It may be true, it may even be implicit in the interaction, but it’s just weird to hear, especially in an off-the-cuff interaction that doesn’t have indefinite amounts of time to explore lyrical interpretation or the symbolism of syntax. My perception that this is the case is drawn from strained interactions with debaters when I was one of the top debaters on APDA… it’s probably the closest I’ve been to feeling what an adult celebrity might feel like. (And I’m not trying to exaggerate here or delve into grandeur – I’m very well aware of what debate was and wasn’t. I’m just explaining a sensation of an interaction that seems vaguely microcosmic.) Novice debaters I’d never met would walk right up to me and start talking about how they felt about a round, or try to get my opinion on a type of case, often with no introduction, warning, or observation of the fact that this was a weird thing to do. The lack of introduction exacerbated things like them knowing my name and my not knowing theirs. And they almost all seemed to come from the school of thought that if you just talk to someone like you’ve been good friends for a long time, then everything will go perfectly. It was often too odd for words, and always left me feeling a little bad about not having memorized the 214 people who might be registered at a tournament and anticipating everything they might say to me.
So I didn’t want to do that.
“How’s it going?”
“Good. (laughs) I like your sign.”
“Thanks. I didn’t think you’d sell out.”
“It’s okay. I’m just hoping to get in to see you guys tonight. I’m sure someone’ll come along with an extra. I’m pretty confident.”
“Well, I’ll see what I can do for you. I’ll see if we can work this out.”
“That would be great! Thanks.”
He stopped by a couple times thereafter, once to tell me that he was “working on it” and another to say that he thought it was going to work out.
Shortly after the last interaction (about 50 minutes from when I’d started standing there and the line had now grown a bit with no extras in the crowd), someone clearly in some sort of band-manager position came up and asked me to write down my name on a piece of paper in a Sharpie I could hardly open because of the wind tunnel cold. Five minutes later, she said I had been put on a list for the will-call line and could buy a ticket!
The rest was history and became like the normal experience of going to a show by myself, one that (like doing many things alone, such as going to movies) I often really enjoy as a uniquely personal event. Going to a show with others is great fun, but the event becomes as much about the people you’re going with as the music itself or the band or even how one as a person experiences the whole environment. Going by oneself really isolates the emotions of the event itself… I wouldn’t choose that kind of approach every time, but it’s nice from time to time. Plus I get to eavesdrop. And I really enjoy eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers. It’s one of the best schools we have and the best ways of grounding ourselves in the perspectives of others outside our sphere or vantage point.
I did manage to write “THANK YOU!” on the back of my sign and get John K. Samson’s attention with it during the second or third song, which he acknowledged with a smile and nod. I say a smile, but John K. smiles more than anyone I’ve ever seen on the stage at a show… he constantly seems elated and giddy to be performing. Which is a pretty reasonable reaction, if you ask me.
Did I mention I was in the front row? I was in the front row. I was the sixth person to get up to the stage despite being the 20th or 25th person in line. Only the first five people in line and I were concerned with actual proximity to the show (as opposed to, say, first in line for T-shirts or drinks).
I filled the rest of the sign’s back with the setlist, which I’ll post at the bottom of this now absurdly granular and lengthy post. The Weakerthans may never play “Sounds Familiar” in concert, but it won’t keep me from calling out for it during the silences. “Reconstruction Site” back-to-back with “Aside” was probably my highlight of this show, though the entire first encore was pretty great too. While I was ecstatic that they came back for a second encore (they haven’t done this in the two prior times I’ve seen them), the actual songs left a little to be desired. John K. even got my hopes up by saying “We haven’t played this song in years” before the final tune, but it was not the aforementioned “Sounds Familiar”. That would be a great way to close a show, but it seems the Weakerthans like to end on an up-note, unlike say, Counting Crows, who would totally close on “Sounds Familiar”. If, y’know, it were their song.
Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call
Our Retired Explorer
Relative Surplus Value
Sun in an Empty Room
Left and Leaving
Tournament of Hearts
History to the Defeated
Plea from a Cat Named Virtute
One Great City!
Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist
Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure
Swingin’ Party (cover)
Exiles Among You
After 2,681 consecutive days (take that, Cal Ripken!) of updating Introspection, my first-ever blog has come to a close. It ran daily (though yes, sometimes updates were actually typed and uploaded afterwards) from 13 March 2000 through 15 July 2007.
While there was no particular significance to the first day of updates, the last days were laden with noteworthiness. The last Introspection entry was just two days after my fourth wedding anniversary and just 9 days after the 10,000th day of my life.
It was never my intention to give up on Introspection. If you had asked me most any time during its seven-and-a-half-year run how long I’d be keeping up the blog, I’d have told you “forever”. But forever never seems to be around when it ends. So it goes.
At the same time, I probably never could’ve anticipated the rapacious appetite which I brought to blogging in the first place when Introspection started the morning after that strange dream of many teeth. It wasn’t even called blogging then. Prior to the project, I’d never been able to maintain a journal or diary past a couple weeks on a daily pace, or more than five days out of fifty at a more forgiving rate. I’d always aspired to the concept, but they had fallen down like so many “chapter ones” it paralleled. Somehow, Introspection was able to quickly transcend all prior benchmarks and capture my imagination. No doubt the public nature of the journal had a great deal to do with that, and the early reactions it got (most of them negative). It was a way to try to shake free of the doldrums of one of the worst years of my life, measure its rapid change, then return, and then just became a method to try to talk my way out of whatever I patterns I’d fallen into in a relatively lonely college existence. The rest, as they say, was history… for a while.
Like most things, Introspection didn’t just heave up and keel over, but it faded over time. It was starting to seem like a chore more than a joy, and there were a couple of large hauls where my updates had to be backfilled for weeks at a stretch. I knew it was a red flag once I’d let updates lapse for my own benchmark of 40 days… the fabled line for designating someone for “Italics Purgatory” on my own (now rarely updated) list of friends’ blogs.
Then I went to Oregon, and came face-to-face with a life lived long before Introspection or the internet. My life there (from 1988-1993, ages 8-13) was incredibly tumultuous and successful, with independent experiences coloring every individual year. Never before had I been able to look at this period of time as one unit, to (paraphrasing Jake) pull a string through it and reveal myself as I really was. The trip was ostensibly to celebrate our anniversary and show Em where I spent those (all too stereotypically) formative years, but I wound up showing myself much more. After a night at the Coaster Theater in Cannon Beach watching a delightful play, having run from a half-decade’s worth of ghosts all over Clatsop County (ghosts made more present by the absence of anyone who had actually been there from ’88-’93) for a week, I just about broke down. What would everyone then think of me now? Look at how little I had managed to accomplish! Whatever happened to the kid who skipped 4 grades, got beaten up, and then skipped 4 more instead? Who wrote for the paper, took first at the state fair in photography, starred in plays? Is that really all that became of him? He was going to be something…
That night, I didn’t know how to write about it. Nor the next. Nor certainly upon my return. I was rapidly faced with my “Ketchup Doughnut” of blogging – the writing piece to end all future writing pieces of that form. (Though at least in KD’s case, I had actually written the piece itself. Additionally, the irony of the setting of KD being in the heart of those Oregon days is duly noted.) Meanwhile, the whole experience was prompting a whole revival of questioning and self-doubt in my path in life. The echoes of my all-caps declaration on 10 June 2007 (echoed on the next-to-last day, 14 July 2007) about living by momentum instead of direction continued to reverberate. By the time a whole bunch of nonsense started breaking out at work – things I couldn’t really talk about in less than cryptic ways on Introspection – there was just too much to overcome.
Many people noticed, some seemingly calling my attention to the lingering lack of updates as though I myself had somehow missed it. Some said it was time to just “start it up again”, chalking up the days gone by as missing time and returning to Introspection like an alien abductee months removed and unaware that anything had happened. But I, it has been said, am an absolutist, and Introspection was always about the daily updates. That was as much the project as anything else. And it was broken.
Like so many other things, it was time for a change. This period of time after my trip to Oregon has been borne with a significance of changing that which needs to be changed, especially in how I spend my time and what my presence is online. I quit The Mep Report, my podcast with Greg & Russ (who are still continuing the project with Greg’s wife Clea). I have de facto suspended Questions for God, putting it in the category of many other supposedly frequently updated facets of the Blue Pyramid. I stopped using an Introspection-level requirement of daily updates for Duck and Cover, my webcomic, relaxing it to a looser weekdays-when-I’m-around schedule. More such changes and overhauls are probably in the works. I did manage not to quit my job, though it was probably close there for a couple weeks.
And now to blogging. (I have made peace with this term, by the way. I used to despise it in the early years of Introspection. It still sounds awkward and superficial. But there’s only so long one can resist a term that language has chosen for a phenomenon without just being resistant to the concept of language.) Much as I always thought Introspection would go on as long as my life, so I thought blogging would naturally be a part of it (this is tautological). My fervor for the concept of blogging, of a life lived in public, of communication with a broad base of friends and strangers about innermost perceptions and feelings, has not waned. But some things have to be different this time.
Change is naturally something that seems scary to most. But change is also rivetingly exciting, and gives us the opportunity to do things differently than we did them last time. This is as near a simulation as we get in this lifetime to doing things right the first time, something which most thoughtful people yearn for daily. So I’ve been mulling over the changes that need to be made, and hopefully this blog, StoreyTelling, will be a reflection of that.
The biggest thing that need(s/ed) to change is the length of entries. The tendency of Introspection to speak in quick cryptic bursts was dually the result of my primary (almost exclusive) original blogging influence, ‘Lisha, and my own inclination to write quickly and frequently. While it worked for a long time, it’s not the best practice for someone whose current writing projects almost all have targets in the hundreds of pages. As ridiculously corny as it sounds, I need to stretch my writing muscles. I have been a sprinter most all my life, and I need to work on being a distance runner. (Don’t quote me on this, folks, it’s a metaphor… I do not intend to show Miss Gatewood how fast I want to run.)
The other thing that has to go is the obsession with daily updates. It’s a good goal, a good target, but it’s remarkable the impact that relaxing about this has had on Duck and Cover. It’s incredibly difficult for me to not be an absolutist and extremist about everything, and to push myself to the limits of what a project will allow. But I’ve done that show, and I have 2,681 shiny days to show for it. I think I can be happy with that. (You have no idea that the fact that this number is longer than Ripken’s games-played streak in baseball really does make me feel better.) Now it’s time to start creating more space for myself. I really don’t do well when under a “sense of obligation” (I’ve had countless debates about this concept with a lot of friends in the last few months, so don’t get me too started). And no one puts more obligation on me than myself (though this sometimes makes me feel even more insulted when others do it). So maintaining projects like blogging openly, honestly, and without holding back without the burden of a daily drumbeat should be really helpful to making a better overall result. I will miss the ability to point to any single day in my life and know something I was feeling at that precise moment, but I’m hoping it will still be a rare day when I can’t do that.
Finally, there’s something to be said for all this fancy new blogging technology they have nowadays. Most all of my webpage is hand-coded and will probably continue to be. And this auto-blogging still feels clunky to me and I’m frustrated with how inexact some of the things are as the result of relying on a template (albeit one that I altered pretty significantly). But I can learn to work with these parameters. Meanwhile, I pick up the ability to automatically have an RSS feed, pinging, and (most exciting), sortable categories for my posts. This ability to cross-reference and sort information has always been among the best aspects of the web and the very concept of links, and it’s very exciting to think that this blog can be read exclusively for one facet or another of its content. (For example, it’s likely that someone could come here next season and read this only as a Mariners blog. Meanwhile, you non-baseball people won’t have to be overwhelmed by the quantity of Mariners content and feel disinterested.) I can easily see amassing an overwhelming number of categories (ahem, Helen), so I’ll have to watch that. But maybe it will be okay. These things are pretty flexible with all the quick-change updating and editing options.
Plus, I get more titles and endings. And if I know anything about what I value in writing, it’s titles and endings. Seriously.
Oh, and even though I can’t seem to get rid of them looking like they’re going to appear, there will be no comments. There’s such a thing as too much change. I welcome your e-mails and your own blog posts, but there’s never been any part of this project that has involved wanting other people attaching their comments to it. This is a stand-alone work. At their worst, comments are from random people and extremely negative; at best, they are the equivalent of permanent small-talk. E-mails and other blog posts rarely seem to have the same issues.
So I’m back. So keep checking back. Not all the posts will be as long as this one. At some point, I will fill in other missing details between July and October 2007 (it’s really not that long, is it?) in an effort to keep a pretty continuous narrative dating back to 1998.
There are times that I can’t believe that’s still less than 10 years. And then there are times where it’s hard to convince myself I’ve even been alive that long.
I don’t think either of those feelings will ever really go away.